Oct. 13, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Gopher All-American Nate Schmidt made his NHL debut on Saturday night with the Washington Capitals, registering three shots and one takeaway in 14:51 of ice time. The Capitals fell 5-1 to former Gopher Erik Johnson and the Colorado Avalanche.
“It was tough," Schmidt told the media following the game. "We had a lot of good chances…It’s frustrating for our guys because they’re in there in the spots whenever we need to be, and it’s just not going in for us right now.”
The 11th former Gopher to play in the NHL this year, Schmidt was recalled from Washington's AHL affiliate in Hershey on Friday and was immediately thrown into the Caps' lineup. In addition to Schmidt, former Gophers Keith Ballard, Alex Goligoski, Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel, Nick Leddy, Jordan Leopold, Paul Martin, Kyle Okposo Thomas Vanek and Blake Wheeler have all seen action in the NHL this season while Nick Bjugstad and Jordan Schroeder are also on NHL rosters but have not seen action yet this season.
In his final year with the Gophers program, Schmidt -- a two-time All-WCHA honoree-- developed into arguably Minnesota’s most valuable player in 2012-13. As a junior, the St. Cloud, Minn., native saw the ice in nearly every situation for the Gophers. In addition to backing the WCHA’s top defense, Schmidt quarterbacked the country’s top power-play unit and continued to contribute offensively with the top scoring program in the NCAA as Minnesota picked up a share of its second-straight MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions. Schmidt also saw time on the WCHA’s top penalty kill as the Gophers were ranked in the top 10 nationally in all four facets of the game.
In 96 career games at Minnesota, Schmidt tallied 74 points and 12 goals. In his final two seasons with the program, Schmidt and the Gophers won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups and made two trips to the NCAA tournament including the team’s run to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2011-12.
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The sophomore leads the Gophers with 20 points and nine goals this year while his 11 assists are tied for the team lead.
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A native of Excelsior, Minn., Lettieri ranks second on the Gophers with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 14 games this season.
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With two goals and an assist in the loss, Tyler Sheehy now leads Minnesota with nine goals and 20 points on the season.